CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Players across the NFL knelt, sat and stook with locked arms, while some players refused to come out of the locker room, during the national anthem Sunday.
The show of solidarity came just hours after President Donald Trump tweeted that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should face serious consequences.
"If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!" Trump tweeted.
During a political speech Friday evening in Alabama, the president slammed players who protest the national anthem by kneeling or sitting.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell condemned the comments Saturday morning, calling them divisive.
Trump then unleashed a barrage of tweets criticizing the league's response and suggesting a boycott.
Protests started in London Sunday morning where the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars played the first game of the day.
Fans at the Bank of America Stadium had a mixed reaction over how the Panthers or Saints could react this afternoon.
“I would prefer that players not take a knee,” football fan Carolyn Stewart said.
The protests continued across the league throughout Sunday.
Three teams, Steelers, Seahawks and Titans, chose not to even be on the field during "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Multiple NFL fans said they expected to see some sort of a response to the president's comments both on Twitter and in person.
Trump’s comments over players who kneel during the anthem have drawn backlash from multiple players, teams and the league itself.
“I think it's the players’ options in deciding what they want to do, if they want to stand,” football fan Chandra Chapman said.
At Bank of America Stadium, Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers was not on the field during the anthem.
Peppers said after the game that he wanted to make it clear that his decision to remain in the locker room had nothing to do with disrespecting the flag or the military.
He was emotional in describing his motives.
Peppers emerged only after the national anthem was complete.
He said it was a personal decision, and an appropriate one, following the comments made by Trump.
Peppers said it felt like Trump attacked his brothers and he was standing with them.
“I know a lot of people might not understand it,” Peppers said. “A lot of people might be upset about it, and that’s fine. I'm not living my life up here trying to make everyone happy. I'm doing things I feel like are right and things I believe in. There's only a few times in a man’s life where you have a chance to stand up for something you believe in and make a statement. I thought today was that chance and I took it.”
At least a dozen Saints players sat on the bench for the anthem. None of the Panthers players on the sideline sat or knelt in protest.
“I don’t think out of the White House this needs to come,” fan Jennie Holtzclaw said. “Yes, we respect our flag, but we don't need to divide people.”
“Whatever happens won't be a surprise to me and I do think something is going to happen,” football fan Clifford McCaskill said before the Panthers game.
The NFL will re-air a commercial on unity Sunday night but haven’t said if it's in response to the president.
Channel 9 reached out to the Panthers Sunday morning. A spokesman said team owner Jerry Richardson will not issue a statement regarding the controversy.
Cox Media Group